It's time once more to bid farewell to summer and prepare for cooler weather, playoff baseball, and pumpkin-spiced everything. This is when we start to crave warming flavors, and our healthy caramel apple pork chop fits the bill perfectly. The mix of sweet, savory, and a hint of heat from red pepper flakes is just what you want on your dinner table. Paired with that other autumnal heavy-hitter, butternut squash, this is the perfect meal to prepare when the leaves start falling.
Peel and core apple. Slice into ¼" pieces. Stem thyme (reserve four tops for garnish). Rinse pork chops, pat dry, and season both sides with ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.
Roast the Squash
Place butternut squash and thyme leaves on one side of prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Toss to coat and spread into a single layer. Roast 10 minutes (squash will finish cooking later).
Cook the Pork Chops
While butternut squash roasts, place a medium non-stick pan over medium heat. Add 2 tsp. olive oil and pork chops to hot pan. Cook 4-5 minutes on one side, or until well-browned. After squash roasts 10 minutes, transfer chops to baking sheet, seared-side down, and return to oven. Roast 5-6 minutes, or until squash is tender and pork chops reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees. Reserve pan for making sauce (no need to wipe clean).
Start the Sauce
Return pan used to sear pork to medium heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil and apples to hot pan. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon and toss to coat. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until apples begin to soften.
Finish the Caramel Apple Sauce
Add brown sugar, half the pecans (reserve remaining for garnish), ⅓ cup water, and red pepper flakes (to taste) to pan with apples. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Simmer 2-3 minutes, or until sauce is reduced to a light glaze consistency. Season with ¼ tsp. salt. Taste, and add remaining cinnamon, if desired.
Plate the Dish
Place roasted butternut squash on a plate. Spoon caramel apple sauce in front of squash and serve pork chop on top. Garnish with reserved thyme tops and remaining pecans.